Acne Marks vs. Acne Scars: What Are the Differences?

Acne is now the most common skin condition in America, affecting almost 50 million Americans annually. Though 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience acne, it can happen at any stage of life. In fact, it affects 15% of women as well.

If you’re unhappy with the state of your skin, don’t worry; there are plenty of acne treatment options available. You’ll need to determine if you have acne marks or scars first, though.

What’s the difference between acne marks vs acne scars? Read on to find out!

What Are Acne Marks?

Sometimes, the terms “acne mark” and “acne scar” are used interchangeably. Let’s look at each one separately. 

Acne marks are also called dark spots. They’re a discoloration of your skin that occurs after an acne breakout.

Acne causes the skin to undergo a natural process, inflammation. Inflammation causes increased blood flow, leading your skin to appear red.

To fight off acne (and the infection associated with acne breakouts), your blood will carry white blood cells to the area. Your body also increases the production of cells that produce melanin, melanocytes.

Melanocytes cause your skin to darken.

When your skin darkens during the inflammation process, acne marks can develop. Since there are no indentions, your skin will appear smooth. However, you’ll still notice discoloration, causing an uneven skin tone.

Other terms associated with acne marks include post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and post-inflammatory erythema.

Post-inflammatory pigmentation occurs due to increased melanin production, which causes brown spots. Post-inflammatory erythema, however, appears in pink or red patches.

These acne marks usually fade within three to six months. 

What Are Acne Scars?

Acne scars and marks are often confused because acne scars also develop due to inflammation during an acne breakout. However, acne scars are viewed as a more serious issue.

Acne marks fade on their own. Acne scars, however, are usually permanent indentations on the skin. They develop due to tissue damage.

Acne scars can develop if there’s an irregularity when your skin is healing after a breakout.

During the inflammation process, cysts or pustules can form. These are small pockets of skin that contain dead skin cells, bacteria, or oil. If the pouch ruptures, the skin will trigger its natural wound-healing process.

This healing process causes new collagen fibers to replace the damaged skin. If collagen (a protein that keeps your skin firm and taut) doesn’t produce properly, a scar will develop on your skin.

Acne scars can appear as:

  • Wide scars
  • Thick scars
  • Raised scars
  • Indentions
  • Tiny craters

There are also different types of acne scars. A few include ice pick scars, hypertrophic scars, rolling scars, and boxcar scars. 

Acne Mark Treatments

While acne marks usually disappear on their own, they can also cause lasting discoloration over time. There are non-surgical treatment options available that can remove your acne marks before they cause lasting discoloration. These treatments can help you maintain beautiful, smooth skin.

Micro-Needling Radiofrequency

Micro-needling INFINI treatments can reduce inflammation and blood flow. Redness will improve as a result. Micro-needling works for both acne marks and acne scars.

You can look into treatment with skin pen, which is clinically proven to effectively treat acne scars.

Treatments can also stimulate collagen production to help your skin naturally heal.

Pico Laser Treatment

Pico Toning, or Pico laser treatment, can improve your skin’s discoloration and pigmentation.

The technology is designed to deliver ultra-short, ultra-focused pulses of laser energy. Energy will target superficial layers of the skin. Since the pulses are short, they won’t burn or heat the skin.

This nearly painless treatment option is effective and requires almost no downtime. 

Vitamin C

As you update your skincare regimen, consider looking for products that contain vitamin C. Vitamin C can effectively lighten dark spots. It can reduce melanin production and pigmentation issues to clear your skin. 

Clarity II Laser

The Clarity II Laser is a powerful Nd:YAG and alexandrite laser. It’s used to target and remove skin pigmentation issues. 

The laser beam is precise, allowing it to specifically target melanin. Treatment with this type of laser can effectively remove your dark spots and acne marks. 

Rejuran S

Rejuran S is a unique type of Rejuran injectable skin booster. It works to stimulate the skin’s natural healing process, allowing it to thoroughly rejuvenate the skin.

The Rejuran S solution contains polynucleotides, which are derived from salmon DNA. Polynucleotides can stimulate collagen production. Enhancing your skin’s collagen production can restore its integrity following a breakout. 

Acne Scar Treatments

Since acne scars are permanent, it helps to look into lasting treatment options. To treat acne scars effectively, you first need to identify the type of scars you have. Each type requires a different treatment option.

For example, icepick scars are best treated with TCA chemical peels or fractional lasers. Boxcar scars require subcision first. 

Everyone is unique. Consult a professional to determine which treatment option best suits your needs. 


If you have stubborn scar tissue or tethered scars, subcision is ideal. Treatment involves a needle.

Your technician will gently remove scar tissue from under your skin during treatment.


INFINI uses radiofrequency and tiny needles to target deep layers of the skin. It requires minimal downtime and recovery is usually one to two days.

This treatment can help stimulate collagen production.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels can reduce inflammation while increasing white blood cell production. They can treat mildly depressed scars as well.

You can choose from mild to more aggressive chemical peels based on the type of acne scarring you have.

Fractional Laser Therapy

Fractional laser therapy can resurface your skin to treat your acne scars. As your skin heals, new skin cells will form. Your skin tone will look even and clear as a result.

You can combine this treatment option with subcision and INFINI treatments. 

Acne Marks vs Acne Scars: Find a Treatment Today

To recap, what’s the difference between acne marks vs acne scars? Acne marks usually fade on their own, while acne scars are lasting. Look for an acne treatment that suits your needs today.

With help, you can eliminate dark spots for smooth-looking skin.

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